In a tribute to common sense, the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that a Cross raised in 1934 as a tribute to U.S. soldiers who died in World War I may stay at the Mojave National Preserve. The depressing part of this news was that the vote was 5-4. Stevens, who is retiring, voted with the four justices who viewed the Cross as a threat to our constitutional order.
Just last week the Nebraska state legislature by a vote of 44-5 passed landmark legislation—The Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act—setting a demarcation line on abortion services based on a substantial body of biomedical research that indicates unborn children can feel pain at 20 weeks. Governor Dave Heinemen (R-NE) signed the bill into the law, which will take effect this October. Once the law is enforced, abortion services will be illegal at and after 20 weeks gestation with exceptions only in cases of the threat of death to the mother or a serious risk of “substantial and irreversible physical impairment of a major bodily function.” Rape and incest are not included as valid exceptions. It is clear from this that there is a dual effort to skirt around the requirements of Roe and avoid the very broad exception of a woman’s “health” that in practice acts as a smokescreen for all elective abortions.
This law is the first of its kind in the United States, basing its restriction on abortion on fetal pain and not on arbritrary notion of fetal”viability.” Without any surprise, pro-choice lobbyists and lawyers are going to challenge the law in court as unconstitutional because it sets the abortion limit prior to the prevalent judgment that “fetal viability” falls between 22 and 24 weeks and the law allegedly violates several judicial precedents post-Roe, such as the intentionally neglect to include rape, incest, and broad “health-related” clauses as valid exceptions to have an abortion.
Technically there are no judicial precedents for the pro-life Nebraska law because the newness of the standard that is the basis of the law. This will be a first-test case. There is reason to be optimistic that the U.S. Supreme Court—if the case makes it that far—might very well uphold the law. In the best case scenario, there are at least fives justices (the same five that upheld the ban on partial-birth abortion) who would seriously consider a persuasive case of state interest in preserving unborn human life given the considerable amount of medical evidence that unborn children are capable of feeling pain at 20 weeks during an abortion.
The full text of the new abortion law can be found here.
Coincidentally, the same day the Republican governor also signed a separate law requiring health care providers to screen women seeking abortions for possible physical or mental risks before and after the procedure with failure to comply resulting in fines up to $10,000. He has stated his intention to defend these pro-life victories against legal challenges if necessary.
As I’m a week and a half from law school exams, I don’t have the time to do this justice but there’s an important case involving a group I’m involved in at law school that was argued in front of the Supreme Court today. In sum, the school banned the CLS (Christian Legal Society) because it wanted the Christian Legal Society members to be…well, Christians. The school defends itself on the idea that allowing any discrimination is intolerable and would open a slippery slope to racist groups (no, seriously-read the article and the questions of Sotomayor & Stevens. Glad that Obama appointment is doing well for Christians).
So pray for a just result that will protect the rights of Christians to assemble.
From a Catholic point of view, retiring Supreme Court Justice Stevens’ extreme commitment to supporting unlimited abortion in our country is clearly one of his worst legacies as a justice, and one most likely to be mirrored by whoever is chosen to replace him by President Obama.
There are other reasons to look back with a critical eye on Stevens’ tenure on the court, however, and blogger Lexington at The Economist highlights what he regards as the worst opinion that Stevens’ authored: the majority opinion in Kelo v New London, in which Stevens and the liberal majority of the court held that the constitutional powers of “eminent domain” can be used by local government not only to secure land for true “public use” such as building roads or public buildings, but to secure land for private development. In simply terms: Kelo means your city can force you to sell your home to make room for a new shopping center.
Kelo is certainly one of the worst decisions of recent years (giving far more real room for abuse of power by large corporations than the Citizens United decision, which Obama demagogued in his state of the union address) and underscores in an important way how the “progressives protect the little guy while conservative protect big business” narrative fundamentally misses the real and more complicated dynamics at play in our polity.
Get ready for Obama appointment, Round 2.
Not sure how the timing will work on this, especially as Obama and the Democrats try to avoid being too contentious right before the November elections. That might play in our favor as far as getting a more moderate nominee. It will also be interesting to see if the GOP can or will delay the nominee as they have the 41 votes to filibuster.
The names being thrown around are the same ones being thrown around before; we’ll see where he goes with this pick. Time to start praying again.
I have to say something about the latest Supreme Court ruling upholding “corporate personhood”, declaring that corporations and unions (when was their “personhood” established?) can contribute as much money to political campaigns they like in the name of free speech.
I am not a judicial scholar, but this argument looks absolutely rotten to the core. News articles tell me that Republicans are actually happy about this decision, mouthing the words “this is a victory for free speech”, and apparently believing them too.
Because of my limitless capacity for self-doubt, I suppose I can always leave the door open slightly ajar to the possibility that there really is some moral and social good or benefit to allowing multinational corporations and Mafia-infested labor unions to ride roughshod over the American electoral process.
However, because of my sanity, which normally tells me that “an artificial being, invisible, intangible, and existing only in contemplation of law” (to quote dissenting Justice Stevens, quoting John Marshall) isn’t a real person, I think this decision is one of the most anti-democratic, nakedly plutocratic I have ever heard of. Arguments for corporate personhood, and the freedom of speech that follows, ultimately give one a sense of what it is like to live in Oceania in Orwell’s 1984 and hold the revolutionary thought that 2+2 might actually equal 4, even when Big Brother says it equals 5. War is peace, slavery is freedom, and the freedom to buy politicians and elections is “freedom of speech.” Insanity is sane!
In his encyclical Aeterni Patris, Pope Leo XIII sought to advance the restoration of Christian philosophy against the modern trends of secular philosophy, emerging from Enlightenment rationalism. The critique of modern intellectual errors and the way in which such false thinking manifests itself in the world has deeply shaded my personal reflection on the tragedy of legal abortion.